By Bobby Hebert
HAMILTON: I had the good fortune to be invited to attend the seventh annual Vaisnava Winter Festival in Lithuania last month hosted by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
Although I have traveled all over the world, this was my first visit to the Eastern Bloc. Lithuania is situated on the shining eastern shore of the Baltic Sea and borders Latvia on the north, Belarus on the east and south, and Poland and the Kaliningrad region of Russia on the southwest.
The festival was held in an exclusive winter retreat, about 40 km outside of the capital city of Vilnius. The three-day event, formerly held in India, was focused on hearing and chanting the glories of Lord Krishna in association with other devotees. Nearly 500 devotees, including many from the neighboring countries of Latvia and Estonia, attended the spiritual retreat.
For a brief period, a mini-India came up around us. And it was a sight to behold. The attire of the devotees said it all. The men wore elaborate dhoti and beautiful kurtas, and the women colorful and elegant saris, with their foreheads marked with the spiritual sign of Tilak from the sacred soil of Vrindavan in India where Lord Krishna was born. The priests followed the strict discipline of deity worship to perfection.
Lord Chaitanya, the Supreme Lord who appeared as a devotee in West Bengal in 1486, has predicted this process for God realization and self realization, namely through chanting of the holy names of the Lord, in an effort to spread the mantra “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare” all over the world for everyone’s benefit. This has become a reality in the year 2013 through the work of the founder of ISKCON A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, his disciples and now their disciples at the Vaisnava Festival I attended in Lithuania.
India has a glorious history and many treasures she can offer the world for the benefit of society. The most important thing the world needs in these modern times to solve its problems is God or Krishna consciousness.
The process of Krishna consciousness when properly practiced has a profound positive spiritual effect on people. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and the proof of this process of chanting the maha mantra – the great chant of deliverance – is in the performance.
Some of the highlights of the Festival included rousing kirtan, diligent japa, interesting and inspiring classes and of course amazing prasadam – pure vegetarian food – offered to Lord Krishna, and then served to all the attendees at this wonderfully organized spiritual event.
I had a chance to visit some householders who have turned their homes into temples in the mood of the Nama Hatta program of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
These programmes and sincere people of the Baltic States are spreading the message of Lord Krishna throughout this region and the world to the glory of India. I was so grateful to be invited to this Krishna Festival in Lithuania as the event also inspired me to endeavor to become a better devotee of my dear Lord Krishna on my return to Canada.
(Based in Hamilton, Ontario, Bobby Hebert is many things rolled into one: a yoga teacher, business consultant specializing in real estate, public speaker, producer, concert promoter, songwriter and a musician)